Competitor backlink research can be a great way to get valuable backlinks for your website or clients, but it can also lead to some other nasty things -- namely, viruses and spyware. Competitors probably didn't knowingly get links on a website that was serving up malware. But some websites they gained backlinks from may have since been abandoned by their owners, hacked, and turned into breeding ground for PC infections.
While surfing the Internet to find new linking opportunities, you may inadvertently come across an infected website that provides no warning before you load it. Some sites will try to mislead you by notifying you that your PC is infected, then instruct you to click on their link to find out more. That's when the actual malware download is initiated.
Some of the main offenders include, but aren't limited to:
- Blogs: Popular blogging platforms such as WordPress often get hacked, whether due to the own site's security or the website hosting company's vulnerabilities.
- Directories: Also powered by platforms using PHP, these can get infected by malware which can be downloaded from the website to your computer.
And, of course, because many seemingly static websites are built on blogging platforms used as content management systems, this means that any website could possibly be hosting malware.
What's worse is these kinds of security intrusions may not just affect your computer. If you also have saved FTP information for your websites or a client's, some malware may grab that information and infect your websites as well.
So what can you do to protect your computer while checking out your competitors' backlinks to prevent losing valuable productivity time if your machine gets infected?
Keep Your Virus Scanner Up To Date and Scan Frequently
This one's obvious, but is easily forgotten if you don't have a resident technical support guru checking up on you. If you can't remember to do it yourself, have your virus scanner scheduled to update and scan your machine regularly, daily if possible.
Don't Leave Your Security Up To One Program
One time, when my PC was obviously possessed by some form of demon I picked up after I checked out a competitor's backlink on an abandoned and infected directory, my virus software ran a thorough scan and reported that there were no threats detected.
Virus scanners only pick up certain kinds of threats -- viruses, trojans, etc. Additional spyware software is needed to find malware, bad cookies, and browser hijacking scripts.
Spybot Search & Destroy is a free software that you can download and install on your PC. Be sure to search for and download updates once it's installed, and then use the Immunize feature to implement passive protection measures. Also, try to remember to run this program regularly to check for any problems that may not have visible symptoms.
Lock Down Your Browser
More Ways to Keep Your PC Safe
Now it's your turn. What security issues have you run into while seeking out new linking opportunities, and what do you do to protect your computer from being affected by malicious websites?
Join us for SES Chicago 2010, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place October 18-22! The conference offers 70+ sessions on topics including PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!